Artist's impression of independent Scotland border crossing.

Artist’s impression of independent Scotland border crossing.

As the referendum for Scotland’s independence is looming, what are those of us watching from afar to make of all this? How should Britons, especially naturalised ones react if Scots vote yes?

Now that the prospect of independence is clear and present, and the prospect of waking up on 19 September to discover the union has been defeated, it will be a sad end for a three hundred years union.

This decision of the Scots will affect every Briton outside Scotland. Our country will change. At its most basic, a yes vote will mean that, at a stroke, the UK will lose a third of its land mass and close to a tenth of its people. The mountains and lakes of Scotland will still be there, of course, but they will be the terrain of a foreign country. As one Czech who remembers the sensation when his country no longer included Slovakia said: “It felt like an amputation.”

‘British” will become an extinct term, too baggy and ill-fitting for the rump UK left behind. The English will account for more than 90% of the population of this leftover entity, while the Welsh and Northern Irish huddle together making up the rest. We will have to let go of British and Britishness, terms long mocked for their vagueness but useful all the same. Not least for those of us from minorities, who have found living in a country defined by its very plurality, a composite of four nations from the start, easier than in most places. “British” works well next to an unseen hyphen – black British, Muslim British, Jewish British. But if Scots vote yes, we will have to learn that trick anew alongside the word “English”, a category whose history is not quite as generous.

Until now, Britain has represented a rare experiment in shared sovereignty, pooling risks and resources across borders. But a yes vote will end all that.

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